Coalition investigating deaths in Yemen strike

Relief organisation claims dozens of children killed while travelling in a school bus

People gather next to the wreckage of a bus at the scene of Thursday's air strike in Saada province, Yemen August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Naif Rahma
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The Arab Coalition allied with Yemen's government is investigating claims that an air strike on Houthi rebels in Saada province on Thursday led to the reported deaths of dozens of children travelling in a school bus.

The coalition referred the incident to its special investigative panel soon after the reports by relief organisations working in Yemen, an official told the Saudi Press Agency.

The investigators, known as the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, have been asked "to conduct their assessment of the procedures and conditions of said operation" and the results will be announced as soon as possible, the official said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its team in Saada received the bodies of 29 children and treated 48 wounded, 30 of them children. "The coalition is firmly committed to investigating all claims regarding mistakes or violations of international law, to sanction those who caused these incidents and to provide assistance to the victims," the coalition official said.

Coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki said on Thursday that the attack in Saada was launched against Houthi rebels responsible for firing a missile at the southern Saudi city of Jazan the previous day. The missile was intercepted but one person was killed and 11 others injured by shrapnel.

He said the attack was a "legitimate military action" in accordance with international law and accused the Iran-backed rebels of recruiting children and deploying them in combat areas. Houthi rebels have previously used human shields.

The rebels launched two more missiles at populated civilian areas of Jazan on Friday. Both were intercepted without causing any casualties or damage, Col Al Malki said.


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The attacks come just weeks before talks in Geneva convened by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to find a political resolution for the conflict, now in its fourth year.

The government and rebels have agreed to attend the preliminary round scheduled to begin on September 6. Mr Griffiths said the General People's Congress party of late president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Southern Transitional Council, would also be taking part.

"The future of the South will not be discussed in these consultations, but will be part of the Yemeni dialogue in the transitional period," Mr Griffiths told the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The president of the STC, Brigadier Aidarous Al Zubaidi, said the group wanted to participate in the talks as a full partner representing southern interests.

"The new situation on the ground in the south must be acknowledged. Those days when the south was pushed aside are gone," he said in an interview with Abu Dhabi TV.

Brig Al Zubaidi said the STC, whose fighters are battling the Houthis alongside government and coalition forces, appreciated and supported the Arab Coalition's efforts to stop Iran's attempts to extend its control over the region.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and overthrew the internationally recognised government led by President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi during a transition of power from Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The former president, who stepped down in 2012, had allied with the rebels but was killed by them in December after he broke away.